UK employees have revealed the real reason they call in sick – despite claiming to have a physical health problem, 42% reveal that the actual cause is a mental health issue.

A new report, from health and wellbeing provider BHSF, has highlighted a hidden problem that is only magnified by the stigma surrounding poor mental health.

Over half (56%) of employees admitted to suffering from stress, a third from anxiety (36%) and a quarter from depression (25%). Despite 88% of employees suffering from poor mental health admitting that work is either the main cause or a contributing factor, just 15% would tell their boss if they were struggling with an issue of this nature.

Dr Philip McCrea, Chief Medical Officer at BHSF, commissioned this research to raise awareness of the impact of poor mental health on the workplace. He said: “The scale of this problem is huge – and it is being massively underestimated by employers, with employees feeling that they have to mask the issues they are facing.

“Although shocking, these findings don’t surprise me – this report must provide a reality check for employers, who need to be more proactive and focus on early intervention. A more open culture must be created in workplaces across the UK, and employers have to take responsibility for this change.”

The new research also highlights the need for workplace support. The statistics show that just 21% of employees receive dedicated mental health support from their employer. Shockingly, this lack of employer support has led to an average of 8.4 sick days taken each year, per employee, due to a mental health problem.

Dr McCrea said: “Mental health problems do not suddenly materialise. The vast majority of individuals suffering from poor mental health will show obvious signs, which are easy to spot in the workplace. Line managers, or nominated individuals, should be trained to spot the first signs.

“For employers, developing early intervention strategies is critical – this includes the provision of mental health first-aiders, providing adequate mental health training for managers, and resilience building for employees, amongst other things.”

BHSF’s latest report details further the scale of the issue, as well as directing employers on next steps to take, and warning signs to look out for. It also provides a nine-step conclusion, with advice for employers on creating a mentally healthy workplace.

“Mental health is currently costing the UK economy billions, and the cost of non-intervention is far greater than the cost of intervention,” he added.

“It’s up to employers to take a proactive approach to managing mental health in the workplace before it’s too late.”

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